History of Kirsch-Rooney Stadium

 By: Tyler Scheuerman
Located on a corner of Delgado’s City Park Campus, “Rags” Scheuermann Field at Kirsch-Rooney Stadium has been the home of Delgado baseball for four decades. The tradition-rich ballpark recently marked the 55th anniversary of its dedication, and it’s still going strong…

Since its dedication on June 19, 1957, Kirsch-Rooney Stadium has come to serve as a landmark to baseball in the Crescent City. Originally built to serve the rapidly growing Lakeview neighborhood’s recreational needs, the stadium’s baseball diamond would go on to host generations of New Orleanians, both players and spectators alike. This past June, the stadium marked its 55th anniversary of operation.

Shortly after Kirsch-Rooney Stadium was built at a cost of $70,000, Councilman James Fitzmorris, Jr., in a letter dated June 19, 1956, explains that the city council unanimously approved an “ordinance requesting that the new Delgado Baseball Stadium be changed to the Kirsch-Rooney Baseball Stadium, in memory of Cyril Kirsch and “another of our very fine Lakeview boys, Robert Rooney.”

Groundbreaking for the stadium's grandstand
The two boys, “Cy” and “Bob,” as they were known to family and friends, were two graduates of Jesuit High School who lettered together on the Blue Jays’ offensive line on the varsity football team. Although they graduated two years apart, they went on to continue their football careers at the collegiate level. Kirsch traveled to Auburn University, while Rooney was accepted to the University of West Point. Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, both men entered military service for the U.S. Army. Four years later in March 1945, as the war was reaching its end, Robert Rooney, a recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross, had just completed his last mission on his final tour of duty, when his plane collided with that of another flight leader, killing both instantly. One month later, Cyril Kirsch was shot and killed by an enemy sniper while on a mission in Okinawa, Japan. Both Kirsch and Rooney were awarded the Medal of Honor after their deaths.

Cyril Kirsch and Robert Rooney, two WWII casualties and the stadium's namesakes
Before the stadium was built, during World War II, the land was used as a storage area for the nearby Higgins factory, where the now famous Higgins Landing Crafts used in the D-Day Invasion were built. The wood and materials used in making those boats were likely stored where the diamond sits today.

An aerial view of the Higgins plant and Delgado in the 1940s. The patch of land behind the factory would eventually become the site of Kirsch-Rooney Stadium.
Kirsch-Rooney Stadium quickly became a busy place, filled year-round with baseball games and even some occasional football games, which were played across the outfield.

The diamond has hosted two Major League Baseball exhibition series, one between the Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds on April 6-7, 1967 and another between the Atlanta Braves and Baltimore Orioles on April 1, 1974. In the first series between the Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds, future managers Dusty Baker and Dave Johnson each hit homers out of the park. Pete Rose also played in the series for the Reds. In the Braves/Orioles game, Hank Aaron hit a homer over the left field wall and received a standing ovation. Aaron’s home run would come only three days before he tied Babe Ruth’s lifetime homerun record at 714 home runs at the Braves’ home opener against the Cincinnati Reds.

Overhead shot of the stadium
In March 1959, while in New Orleans for a public appearance for the New Orleans Pelicans, Joe DiMaggio visited Kirsch-Rooney while the Pelicans were taking batting practice. After removing his suit jacket, DiMaggio stepped up to the plate and hit a home run. It turned out that 1959 would be the Pelicans' final season. Other baseball greats who have graced the diamond at Kirsch-Rooney are Tony Perez, Jim Palmer, Brooks Robinson, Don Baylor, Rusty Staub, Ron Washington, and Will Clark. 

Kirsch-Rooney's grandstand in 1957
Now in its 55th season, the ballpark remains active year-round. For the past four decades, the stadium has been home to Delgado Community College’s nationally-ranked baseball program. It also serves as the home of the majority of New Orleans’ top high school and prep baseball teams. During the summer months, Kirsch-Rooney is home to the New Orleans Boosters’ summer program and league as well as First District American Legion Baseball. Today, the stadium hosts nearly 350 games during its regular season, which spans fall through summer.

And 2012, 55 seasons later
Kirsch-Rooney has hosted dozens of championship events including the 1974 NCAA Division II World Series, the 1984 American Legion World Series games, two Southwestern Athletic Conference Championships, multiple American Legion Southeast Regional playoffs, and the 2002, 2004, and 2011 American Legion State Tournaments. In 2011, Delgado made conference history by hosting both the Region XXIII Tournament and the NJCAA South Central District Championship, within one week of each other. The Dolphins fell short in extra innings of the South Central District Championship game, coming several outs away from another trip to the Junior College World Series. The stadium’s 55th season will close later this summer by hosting the American Legion Mid South Regional, bringing together state champions from seven states to compete for a berth in the American Legion World Series.

The Dolphins take the field
In 2003, Kirsch-Rooney Stadium’s diamond was named for long-time Delgado coach, Louis “Rags” Scheuermann, who served as supervisor of the stadium for 40 years in addition to coaching the Dolphins. Since his death in 1997, the Scheuermann family has continued the family tradition of managing the facility. The family has been a constant throughout the stadium’s years, present since opening day in 1957.
The re-lighting ceremony in 2009 featured members of the Kirsch, Rooney and Scheuermann families as well as members of the New Orleans baseball community
In August 2005, Kirsch-Rooney and its surrounding neighborhood were submerged by five to six feet of water for two weeks after Hurricane Katrina caused a breech in the nearby 17th Street Canal. The Stadium lost its field lights, outfield fence, scoreboard, batting cages, parts of its roof, and the entire lower level of the grandstand. Extreme efforts were made by Delgado Community College, and Kirsch-Rooney reopened on February 12, 2006 to the surprise of many. Kirsch-Rooney became the first completely flooded stadium in the New Orleans Metropolitan area to make a full recovery from the storm, becoming a beacon of hope during a period of despair. Some adjustments had to be made, however, including the loss of the field lights, which prompted the first all day game season in the Stadium’s history. A series of major upgrades and the dedication of the stadium’s staff have brought the ballpark back to a fully functional facility. On April 25, 2009, a new state-of-the-art field lighting system was officially dedicated in front of members of the Kirsch, Rooney, and Scheuermann families in addition to members of the New Orleans baseball community.

As part of its commitment to New Orleans, Delgado Community College has provided the upkeep of the field and grandstand for many years through an agreement with the New Orleans Recreation Department. In April 2008, Delgado and N.O.R.D. renewed their pact through a cooperative endeavor agreement, which granted Delgado Community College “operational control” of the facility for the foreseeable future.

Numerous improvements over the past five years have transformed the park into a modern-day facility while still maintaining its history and fan-friendly atmosphere. Some of these many improvements include a new field lighting system, a state-of-the-art scoreboard and message center, new grandstand seating and bleachers, a new backstop and net to improve spectator sight lines, a renovated grandstand façade, and new ceramic paint throughout the facility. Annual field maintenance keeps “Rags” Scheuermann Field one of the top surfaces around, despite its near-constant use. Future improvements include the construction of a Delgado baseball locker room and office facility near the property.

Sunset at the stadium
Through the years, the facility has seen its share of change but has continued to evolve and change with the times, all while serving the simple purpose it was originally built for—hosting baseball games. While other similar facilities have come and gone, Kirsch-Rooney has been a constant in the lives of local players and their fans, even serving as a model for newly constructed facilities.

The stadium’s legacy continues to live on with new teams of players, old and new coaches and umpires, and entertained spectators. The ballpark’s rich history has not only been shaped by the thousands of games played inside its gates, but by the millions of memories that have walked out of them. Kirsch-Rooney Stadium is a house built on an evolving tradition…a tradition that continues with each and every pitch.

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